BAGHDAD (TIP): Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraq does not need foreign ground troops to defeat the Islamic State group, after Washington announced it would deploy special forces to fight the jihadists.
Abadi did not directly reject the deployment, which US secretary of state John Kerry said Baghdad had been informed about before the announcement, but he did insist that any operations be coordinated with the Iraqi government.
The presence of American ground forces is a contentious issue in Iraq, where the United States fought a nearly nine-year war, and it is politically expedient for Abadi to distance himself from the deployment.
“There is no need for foreign ground combat forces in Iraqi territory,” Abadi said in a statement released late Tuesday in which he praised the performance of Iraqi special forces. “The Iraqi government stresses that any military operation or presence of any foreign force, special or not, in any place in Iraq cannot be done without its approval and coordination with it,” the statement said.
Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said Tuesday that the US was deploying a “specialized expeditionary targeting force” to Iraq to work alongside local forces against IS, which overran large parts of the country last year.
On Wednesday, Kerry said in Brussels that “the government of Iraq was of course briefed in advance of Secretary Carter’s announcement”.
“We will continue to work very, very closely with our Iraqi partners on exactly who would be deployed, where they would be deployed, what kinds of missions people would undertake, how they would support Iraqi efforts to degrade and destroy” IS, Kerry said.